Live Law: Mumbai: Saturday, March 11, 2017.
The Kerala High Court has observed that account particulars or the financial information of an account holder or any other information divulging of which results in an unwarranted invasion of a member/account holder’s privacy cannot be treated as information available for dissemination under the RTI Act.
Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu was considering a batch of writ petitions by co-operative societies challenging the state Information Commission order directing them to provide information sought with respect to account particulars of its members.
The court observed: “Citizens do have a right to get information, but they can have access only to the information “held” by or is under the “control” of public authorities. If the information is not statutorily accessible by a public authority, as defined in Section 2(h) of the Act, evidently, that information is not under the “control of the public authority”. Resultantly, it is impossible for the citizens to access the information, not under the public authority’s control. Citizens, in that event, can always claim a right to privacy; a citizen’s right to access information should be respected, so also a citizen’s right to privacy.”
The judgment also discussed the ratio in the Supreme Court judgment in Thalappalam Service Cooperative Bank Limited v. State of Kerala and summarised it as follows:
1. That a cooperative society is not a public authority under Section 2 (h) of the Act;
2. The registrar or any other public authority is statutorily enjoined to comply with “the obligations under the RTI Act and furnish information to a citizen under the RTI Act”.
3. The information the public authority can provide to an applicant under the RTI Act is the information enumerated in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act;
4. The public authority can gather the required information from a society on which he has “supervisory or administrative control under the Cooperative Societies Act”.
5. The information to be provided by the public authority must be subject to the limitations provided under Section 8 of the Act.
6. The account particulars, or the financial information of an account holder, or any other information divulging of which results in an unwarranted invasion of a member/account holder’s privacy cannot be treated as information available for dissemination under the RTI Act.
Last month the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has held that co-operative institutions “need to supply” information under RTI Act, since it is a “public authority” established under the Cooperative Societies Act.